Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
In an attempt to distinguish himself from the other 15 candidates running in next week’s election for the open seat in California’s 36th Congressional district, Democrat Dan Adler launched a new ad campaign that has set off a flurry of controversy across the blogosphere.
In the most widely noticed advertisement—the clips caught the attention of everyone from a politics blogger with Salon to Glenn Beck to Talking Points Memo—Adler, a former entertainment industry executive draws a parallel between the minority status of Jews and Asians.
The spot, which makes clear that Adler is Jewish and his wife is Korean, features a middle-aged Asian woman saying, “We minorities should stick together.” She speaks in an overwhelmingly thick accent, from behind the counter of a dry cleaning store.
Talking Points Memo went out on a limb, calling it “possibly offensive.”
Another advertisement addresses concerns that Adler, who was a late entry into the race to replace Jane Harman and has never before held political office, might not have what it takes to accomplish things in the remaining months of Harman’s term in congress.
As his young son tells viewers in the advertisement, “My dad gets sh*t done.”
Patty Duke echoes the same message in a third spot.
For more on Dan Adler and the 36th Congressional race, click here.
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May 12, 2011 | 4:15 pm
Posted by Orit Arfa
Brandon Assanti, 24, was a year older than most of the teenage victims of the “Ma’alot Massacre” when he first decided to make a documentary about this grueling attack. The attack was so grueling that, upon watching Assanti’s Their Eyes Were Dry, I wondered how the slaughter wasn’t as historically prominent as the hostage takeovers of Israelis at Entebbe and Munich, both tragic events which were given multiple cinematic treatments.
On May 15 1974, three Palestinian terrorists infiltrated a high school building in the town of Ma’alot Tarshiha near the Lebanon border where high school students had camped for the night as part of a school field trip. Equipped with guns and grenades, they took 105 teenagers hostage, hording them in one classroom. The survivors interviewed in the film recount images too gruesome for any cinematic dramatization: bullet-ridden teenaged bodies piled over each other, the dead protecting the living; terrorists shooting at Israeli forces by sliding the butts of their guns in between the legs of student “shields”; kids jumping off two-story windows to escape, breaking bones on top of injuries sustained by fire. To add insult to unfathomable injury, Palestinians in Lebanon held a joyous parade celebrating the attack and honoring the slain terrorists.
One reason for the massacre’s obscurity, Assanti said in an interview after its LA premiere on May 9, Israel’s Memorial Day, at the AMC Century City, was that, unlike the Entebbe operation, the massacre didn’t put Israel in a heroic light. Guards and teachers fled the scene as soon as the terrorists barged in, leaving the students to fend for themselves. When the IDF set up camp outside the school, the Chief of Staff and Minister of Defense at the time couldn’t agree on how and when to attempt a rescue.
“I think one of the things that happened afterwards was that there was so much backlash about the teachers running away and how the government handled it, that there was a sense of shame so people didn’t want to talk about it,” Assanti said, adding that a special task force to deal with similar situations was set up after the attack.
Assanti, a graduate of Brentwood High School, heard stories about the massacre growing-up. His father, Albert, was born in Morocco and lived in Ma’alot as a child. It was when his father’s cousin, mayor of Ma’alot Shlomo Bohbot, visited the Assantis in Los Angeles that the aspiring filmmaker decided to make his first film about the massacre.
“He revealed more details about the event that I was never aware of, and especially about the teachers running away in the beginning,” Assanti said. “When I heard that, that totally blew my mind because that meant the oldest child there was seventeen years-old.”
Assanti spent his years as a finance major at Loyola Marymount researching, filming and editing. Testimony from survivors, filmed in Israel, provide the crux of the narrative. His parents are co-producers, and they looked on proudly at the screening at the AMC, which was part of one-night nationwide premiere sponsored by the Israel Consulate, StandWithUs, Jewish Television Network, CAMERA, and the Zionist Organization of America. For now, the film is available only for special screenings.
The theater was packed with a local pro-Israel crowd, and by the end of the movie, there weren’t many dry eyes in the house when an actress read the letter that a 15 year-old victim named Ilana had left in her blood-stained pocket an hour before getting gunned down. In the letter, the religious high school student, knowing she’d meet an untimely end, sought to comfort her mother, who had tried to dissuade her from going on the field trip. She assured her mother that she was at peace with her fate, thanking her for the wonderful childhood she gave her. She tells her mother she didn’t cry: “My eyes are dry.”
“To me it reflected the power and strength that all these children had during such a difficult and frightening time. That’s where I derived the title from. The first time I heard those words, it never left my mind,” Assanti said.
May 12, 2011 | 1:22 pm
Posted Mark Rothman, Executive Director, Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust
The best thing about the Demjanjuk conviction (read the L.A. Times Article) is that the case works from the bottom up. The low level functionary - Demjanjuk was only a guard at Sobibor—is brought to justice.
The worst thing is that for every Himmler or Eichman, there were many multiple Demjanjuks. Thus this conviction is too little, too late. There should have been hundreds, if not thousands, of such trials running continuously for the last 65 years.
Demjanjuk’s defense has been mistaken identity. It should have been selective prosecution.
Demjanuk also claims he himself was a victim of the war. I don’t doubt that. Just recently, Father Patrick Desbois, who has made a career out of detailing the mass murders of Jews throughout the Ukraine, met with the staff at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. In his discussion with us, he talked about the unctuous moral relativism that existed under the Nazi occupation. It is this relativism that allowed neighbors to not only betray neighbors, but to kill them. (And it is our deeper understanding of this relativism that has kept some of us up at night lately.)
Yet not all citizens rose to the level of direct perpetrator within the atmosphere of moral pollution and victimization imposed first by the Soviets, then by the Nazis. Demjanjuk, however, as was shown in Germany, elected to join the SS. He was not tried and convicted for his suffering during the Soviet-imposed famine that effectuated mass murder amongst the Ukrainians, or for his participation in the Soviet Army or for the inhumanities he experienced as a Soviet POW. He was tried and convicted for what he did after those experiences.
The L.A. Times article discusses the critical role the Trawnicki identity card played in convicting Demjanjuk. The year I lived in Jerusalem, I worked on the Demjanjuk trial conducted there. I became familiar with some of the testimony establishing the veracity of that document. I am therefore not troubled by the FBI’s questioning of that document, an internal FBI discussion that has recently been revealed. Law enforcement’s job is to question evidence and evaluate its potential effectiveness in a courtroom.
The questioning by itself does not suggest the document is fake. The German court’s admission of the document, and the document’s ability to withstand challenges to its authenticity so that it could help support a conviction, is what matters.
I am also not concerned that Israeli jurisprudence ultimately overthrew Demjanjuk’s death sentence conviction. In fact, I am thrilled by it. Just as I am thrilled by Germany’s commitment to trying Demjanjuk for different crimes. It shows the rule of law survives and flourishes. And the rule of law is one of the most important protections we have against the moral pollution that lead to the Holocaust.
May 11, 2011 | 5:10 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
Okay, this might be the coolest thing that’s happened this month…
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has launched jerryseinfeld.com, an online archive of stand-up performances and late-night talk show appearance that he’s handpicked.
“I really thought, ‘Where’s my stuff going to be when I’m dead?’ the 57-year-old comedian was quoted as saying in a recent New York Times piece. “Is it just gone for all time? Who could sift through it? I thought, ‘I should filter this out and be the judge of what I thought was good.’”
Uncharacteristically sentimental, Seinfeld says he hopes the new site will inspire young people who love comedy as much as he did as a boy.
“Somewhere out there are ten year olds like I was just waiting to get hooked on this strange pursuit,” reads a message on the new site. “This is for them.”
May 11, 2011 | 3:16 pm
Posted by Lauren Bottner, Hollywood Jew contributor
Officially, grandparents’ day is the first Sunday after Labor Day, falling on Sept. 11, 2011. Bad timing this year. Guessing that there’s a slight chance it’ll be overshadowed this year, I’m moving it up…to today.
One bubby and Zaidy available to adopt. Must have: ample spare time for doting, firm belief that I am the most amazing human to walk the earth (or at least give me that impression), gushy, squishy elbow skin to play with, ability to tolerate me playing with your elbows, soft hands, kind eyes, willing to tell stories about your life - bonus points if they include how to re-use tin foil, anecdotes of your own stupidity to offset my own, and unconditional love.
Payment for these services include: frequent calls to update on my life, say hi, wish you a happy Thursday; partner for crossword puzzles and clipping Sunday coupons; optional chauffeur - as long as it doesn’t involve parallel parking; someone who believed you are much more wise, valuable, and priceless not despite your age but because of it; verbal adoration and boundless love.
To apply: send newspaper clippings about various dangers in the world I should be sure to avoid, home-made cookies, completed crossword puzzles or hand-knitted anything. This is not an exclusive position - will accept multiple applicants.
I have come to understand that not everyone is as lucky as I was to grow up with such incredible grandparents. My grandparents, like fine wine, definitely ripened with age, so that by the time I came around, they were primed and up to the task…most of which involved making me feel like I was the most special, favorite person in the world.
Even more impressive was that upon conferring with my co-workers (i.e. sibling, cousins, etc), I wasn’t the only one that felt this way. That being said, you should know, really, I was the favorite…I’m absolutely sure…don’t tell…
I did nothing to earn this blessing. Simply lucky, I had one snowbird set that lived close by for half of the year and another who lived in Toronto and sent care packages during the months between visits. There was Friday night sleepovers, tutorials in gin rummy, afikomen money from the top giver Zaidy, letters at camp, and adoration galore.
When visiting my father’s parents in Canada, I was greeted a picture shrine featuring my brother and I cataloguing each year and milestone throughout their rooms. The seventeen course shabbos dinner required prolonged fasting to be able to partake in the most delicious brown foods that you’re better off not knowing their origin, sprinkled with love that was so strong that Zaidy Leo had to be warned…“don’t squash them Leo!” lucky - I know.
To be fair, I have to say that I still have one grandparent left. A Holocaust survivor who escaped after her big sister forced her to take on her identity and made it out of Poland never able to remember when her real birthday is after being Rene for over 70 years. For the past ten years, the amount she remembers can fit on a pinhead. The squat huggable bubby Rene isn’t there.
I often have to remind myself that she is still living, if we can call it that, in a nursing home in Toronto. Alzheimer’s has stolen her mind, and so she doesn’t know who I am, who she is, or where the sink is.
She doesn’t scold us “Don’t touch the hair!” when we tease that her updo adds four inches to her 5 foot frame, cook five cakes just in case we might be hungry when we visit after dinner, travel with suitcases full of socks and cotton pjs and frozen corned beef when she comes to visit, or gaze at me the entire visit as if I could do no wrong.
Who knows - maybe she knows more than I think. This is what I know - she doesn’t speak, her eyes stare at a wall, and she can’t hug me when I say goodbye. So I mourn her like I do Bubby Ida and Zaidy Charlie and Zaidy Leo. My biggest fans have all disappeared and it was a rude awakening to discover that it’s hard to find people who think I walk on water.
I collect grandparents like others collect baseball cards. My Zaidy radar is finely honed, buzzing at shul, on airplanes, or on the side of the road.
I miss my grandparents on the obvious days - holidays, birthdays, Tuesday nights, and Thursday afternoons. Then there are those moments where I am overwhelmed by their memory: the old man cologne that screams Zaidy Leo, the envelope handwriting I could swear Bubby Ida wrote, the sight of a woman peering of a balcony waiting for her loved ones as Bubby Rene would wait for us without fail, peeling apples for the charoset just like Zaidy Charlie.
Last night, it was simply the chill that makes me reach for the pink blanket Bubby Ida knit for me, wishing all the while I could trade the blanket for a hug with her.
Then I remind myself, I am lucky…lucky to know what such love feels like, lucky to have them to miss…
And yet, I’m still interviewing applicants
May 11, 2011 | 11:10 am
Posted by Ryan Torok
[UPDATED: MAY 12, 8:27 A.M.]
Two suspects believed responsible for a string of robberies around Los Angeles have been taken into custody, the Los Angeles Times reported this morning, and LAPD officials are investigating if either of the suspects could be behind the death of MTV music staffer Gabriel Ben-Meir, who was shot and killed last Sunday.
According to the L.A. Times:
Authorities said the robberies in the Mid-City, Wilshire and Southwest L.A. areas involved the use of a shotgun, the same type of weapon believed to have been used in the death of Gabriel Aron Ben-Meir, 30.
The murderer of 30-year-old MTV music staffer Gabriel Ben-Meir was linked to suspects behind recent robberies in the Mid-City, Southwest L.A. and Wilshire areas, the Los Angeles Times initially reported on May 11 [UPDATED].
LAPD sources said the robber had struck at least eight times in the last two weeks, using a shotgun during street and business robberies in the Mid-City, Southwest L.A. and Wilshire areas. The robber also is responsible for a slaying [of Ben-Meir] a week ago, police believe…The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, stressed that detectives had not made a positive link but considered it a solid lead.”
Ben-Meir was shot and killed outside his home in the Miracle Mile area around 1 a.m. on Sunday, May 8.
L.A. Weekly cited City News Service’s report that the suspects behind the recent robberies have been described by the victims as “both black men in their 20s or 30s…with an average build and dark clothing.” They may be the same people behind the murder of Ben-Meir, but this is all speculative, and LAPD is continuing its investigation of the murder.
May 9, 2011 | 3:42 pm
Posted by Lauren Bottner, Hollywood Jew contributor
Every bris I’ve been to only had one screaming baby followed by a shmorgasborg of bagels and lox, mimosas, and mingling. The ratio of surgical patients and onlookers has always been severly skewed – one crying baby to hoards of relatives and family friends. Apparently that’s not how they do it in the Phillipines.
On May 7th, well over 1,500 boys were snipped for free at a daylong “Circumcision party”
I’m used to cosy living rooms with nachas schlepping bubbies, men cringing in solidarity and new mothers shielding their tearful eyes.
Instead, this party took place inside a sports stadium with makeshift operating tables in Markina city east of Manila and the snip-ees were 9-12 rather than 8 days old. It was an effort to provide free, safe procedures for this rite of passage common to pre-teen males to poor residents that would otherwise cost at least $40 in private hospitals. (http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/306500)
I’m not sure “party” is the word that comes to mind in this case. Hundreds of crying young boys on folding tables sans kugel. Sounds like big fun! However, their mass circumcision does have something over Jewish brises. Their pain might get them into the Guinness Book of World Records while ours only earns us a joyous L’Chaim.
Still, I think I’ll stick with our kind of party!
May 9, 2011 | 10:35 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
Immediately after CUNY voted not to give an honorary degree to playwright Tony Kushner early last week, Bloggish predicted the university would reverse that decision.
The board began the process of reversing itself on Friday. As The New York Times reported:
Under mounting pressure, the City University of New York board of trustees moved on Friday to reverse its decision earlier this week to withhold an honorary degree from the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner because of one trustee’s concerns about Mr. Kushner’s views regarding Israel.
Benno C. Schmidt Jr., chairman of the CUNY board since 2003, said in a statement that he believed the board had “made a mistake of principle, and not merely of policy,” in failing to approve the degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at its meeting on Monday. Mr. Schmidt scheduled a meeting for this coming Monday of the board’s seven-member executive committee, which has the power to reconsider any board decision that is detrimental to the university.
Trustees made the original decision based on the objections of one board member, not on a careful consideration of Kushner’s full statements on Israel. There can and should be a political litmus test for honorary degree recipients. Who would want to grant one to someone who called for Israel’s, or any state’s, destruction? But that is far, far from what Kushner has stated.
“I can’t feel neutral about the state of Israel because I’m a Jew,” Kushner said in a public dialogue with me at the American Jewish University in 2007, “and I would like to see Israel survive and prosper. I absolutely don’t believe in single-state solution. I believe in a two-state solution. I’ve never anywhere on earth said I believe Israel should be forced to give up its identity as a Jewish state ... that obviously wouldn’t work. It would be the end of Israel.” (You can hear the actual audio here.)
So CUNY is right to now give Kushner an honorary degree, which Kushner said he will accept. So here’s a final prediction: he is going to whip up one whopper of an acceptance speech.